Brooklyn Fundraiser Who Solicited Donations For Fraudulent Charities In The Name Of Israeli Causes Convicted

Yaakov Weingarten

Prosecutors today announced the felony tax fraud conviction of Yaakov Weingarten and a more than $520,000 civil judgment lodged against him and his wife for activities related to the Brooklyn-based charitable fundraising ring he operated, which solicited donations from thousands of donors for phony not-for-profit organizations. The judgment, signed by Kings County Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest on Wednesday, resolves a civil lawsuit filed by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office last year against Weingarten and his wife, Rivka, who are alleged to have been the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme and are, under the judgment, required to pay $522,315. Approximately $360,000 of those funds will go to two Israeli charitable organizations that carry out genuine programs similar to the causes for which Weingarten’s fraudulent solicitations raised donations from the public.

The judgment also permanently bars Weingarten and his associates, Simon Weiss and David Yifat, from any fundraising activities or other charitable activities in the State of New York.

Weingarten pleaded guilty May 19 in Brooklyn Supreme Court before Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino to Criminal Tax Fraud in the Third Degree, a Class D felony. He paid $90,685 in restitution to the state Department of Taxation and Finance, and on June 23, he was sentenced to five years’ probation. As a condition of his felony probation, Weingarten is forbidden from engaging in any charitable fundraising activities for five years.

In June 2013, the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau filed a civil lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order closing Weingarten’s fundraising operation, which Weingarten, together with associates Weiss and Yifat, ran out of a Brooklyn storefront at 1493 Coney Island Avenue. According to the suit, Weingarten, Weiss and Yifat raised donations for 19 sham charities from Jewish donors throughout North America, ostensibly for Israeli charitable causes such as emergency medical services and programs for sick children, terror attack survivors, cancer victims, and the poor. Large amounts of the money raised — an estimated $2 million — was then withdrawn from charity bank accounts. Some of that money was used to pay workers operating Weingarten’s Brooklyn telemarketing boiler room. Other funds were used by Weingarten and his family to pay for personal expenses, such as mortgages, dentist bills, car loans, and home improvements. The complaint also detailed gross mismanagement of charitable assets by Weingarten, including extensive mixing of charitable and personal funds and of funds raised for one charitable cause with those raised for another, which is barred by law. More information on the lawsuit is available here.

Under the order, Weiss, 29, and Yifat, 68, are also permanently barred from charitable fundraising in New York.

As part of his guilty plea, Weingarten, 53, admitted that between approximately June 2007 and June 2012, he solicited charitable donations for multiple entities, many of which did not exist, and obtained donations from thousands of donors. He further admitted that from January 2009 through December 2011, he paid over $270,000 in personal expenses from bank accounts set up in the names of the purported charities, including mortgages on his two homes, various home improvements, and Cablevision and Con Edison bills. Weingarten admitted that with intent to evade New York State taxes, he failed to report this money as income on his 2009, 2010 and 2011 tax returns.

On Wednesday, Justice Carolyn Demarest signed the Attorney General’s civil judgment. It permanently shuts down Weingarten’s operation and requires Weingarten and his wife, also 53, to pay a total of $522,315. Of that, $360,000 will go to the United Jewish Appeal/Federation of New York, to be distributed equally to Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, the preeminent pediatric hospital in Israel, and United Hatzalah of Israel, a leading Israeli volunteer emergency medical services organization. The remaining portion of the judgment payment is for penalties and costs to New York State.

The judgment also requires the dissolution of 11 incorporated entities Mr. Weingarten used to implement his fraudulent fundraising scheme. These entities include four “religious corporations” that on paper purported to be synagogues but in reality were mere shells that helped hide much of his activity behind a cloak of religious freedom. Weingarten also made up names of eight other entities, which were never incorporated, and used those names in his scheme. The 19 Brooklyn entities are permanently barred from operating under the order. They are: Hatzalah Rescue of Israel, Inc.; Shearim, Inc.; Bnei Torah, Inc.; Chesed L’Yisrael V’Chasdei Yosef, Inc.; Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.; Hatzalah Shomron, Inc.; Pulse Foundation, Inc.; Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel, Inc.; Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael, Inc.; Congregation Yad L’Shabbat, Inc.; Shearim Hayad L’Torah Center for Hatzalah L’Shabbat and Chesed L’Yisrael, Inc.; Israel Emergency Center; Magen Israel; Hayad Victim Assistance Fund; Lmaan Hatorah; Our Children; Zaka Israel; Yaldel Simcha Yisrael; and Yad Yisrael.


Brooklyn Man Charged With Stealing Over $42,000 From 87-Year-Old Woman

Prosecutors today announced that a Brooklyn man has been charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of a forged instrument in the theft of $42,500 from an 87-year-old retired social worker he befriended and drove on errands.

District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant allegedly ran a scam and preyed on a vulnerable woman who trusted him. We will not tolerate such shameful acts of elder fraud anywhere in Brooklyn.”

Ariel Lemos Hernandez, 41, of 625 Ocean Avenue, in Flatbush, is presently awaiting arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging him with one count of third-degree grand larceny and 17 counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim, Margaret O’Donnell, met Hernandez in 2012 when Hernandez was employed as a car service driver. O’Donnell became friendly with Hernandez and frequently wrote him checks for car service trips and for what she believed were emergency car repairs, totaling $59,000, between May 2012 and March 2014.

But beginning in November 2013 through April 2014, Hernandez is accused of stealing $42,500 from O’Donnell by writing 17 checks against her account payable to himself for $2,500 each.

A review of Hernandez’s bank accounts shows the checks going into his account and about $42,000 cash being removed from the account via ATM withdrawals. About $400 was a debit charge at a restaurant.

The case was investigated by Detective Investigator Anthony Schembri of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, under the supervision of Chief John Bilich.

10 Year Old Girl Drowned While Swimming In Coney Island

A 10-year-old Staten Island girl has drowned while swimming in the waters off Coney Island.

Police say Takara McDuffy and her 9-year-old girl were pulled from the water by good Samaritans after struggling in the water near Stillwell Avenue on Coney Island Beach at about 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Police say McDuffy was taken to Coney Island Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Her sister was not injured. (more…)

Mysterious White Flags Appear Atop Brooklyn Bridge

bkbridgewhiteflagSomeone has replaced two American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with mysterious white flags.

The white flags – international symbols of surrender – fluttered Tuesday from poles on the stone supports that hold cables above the bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan.

One of the flags, viewed via video, appeared to have faint traces of stars and stripes on it.

Police say it isn’t clear what time they were placed there – or by whom.

Several officers scaled the bridge and were seen lowering the flag on the Manhattan side around 11 a.m. as traffic inched along the bridge.

The bridge is one of the most heavily secured landmarks in the city, constantly monitored by surveillance cameras.

The city’s Department of Transportation is referring all queries to the New York Police Department. (more…)

reBar Owner Sentenced 3-10 Years For Stealing $200K In Sales Tax, Evading $1.2 Million

Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson today announced that the owner of reBar, a now-shuttered restaurant located in DUMBO, has been sentenced to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty last month to grand larceny and criminal tax fraud in connection with stealing approximately $200,000 in sales tax that he collected between 2009 and 2012, but failed to remit to the state. He also admitted failing to collect approximately $1.2 million in sales tax during the same period.

District Attorney Thompson said, “Today’s sentence sends a clear message that we will prosecute tax cheats and put them in prison for stealing money from the people of New York – money that we could use to hire more police officers and improve our schools and roadways.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Jason Stevens, 41, of 68 Jay Street, in Brooklyn. Both Stevens and his corporation, Fulton Ferry Market, Inc., pleaded guilty last month to one count of second-degree grand larceny and four counts of criminal tax fraud before Acting Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew A. Sciarrino, Jr., who today sentenced the defendant to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, between 2009 and 2012, the defendants – Stevens and Fulton Ferry Market – operated reBar, a restaurant located at 147 Front Street, in DUMBO, Brooklyn, and collected approximately $200,000 in sales tax from customers that they failed to remit to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. They also evaded $1.2 million in sales tax by failing to collect it for goods and services rendered.

Welcome the 78th Precinct’s New Boss

After two and a half years as serving as the Commanding Officer of the 78th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri has been given a new assignment as the Commanding Officer of the Highway District. Replacing Deputy Inspector Ameri will be Captain Frank DiGiacomo.

Captain DiGiacomo was appointed to the New York City Police Department in August 1993, and began his career on patrol in the 9th Precinct. He was promoted to Sergeant in June 2000; Lieutenant in May 2005; and Captain in July 2010. Captain DiGiacomo has served in the 9th, 105th, 6th, 75th, and 10th Precincts; as well as Patrol Borough Queens South, Housing Bureau Brooklyn, and Patrol Borough Manhattan South.

Captain DiGiacomo holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Aspen University.

Three Shot in Flatbush Early Saturday Morning

Three men were shot on a Flatbush street, cops said.

The trio, ages 22, 25 and 26, were in front of an apartment building at Martense Street and Bedford Avenue when an unidentified suspect opened fire at about 6 a.m. Saturday, according to police.

The three suffered non-life-threatening wounds, cops said, and were being treated at Kings County Hospital.

Police are looking for a man who fled in a four-door sedan, who may have been the shooter, cops said.

Landau Synagogue Synagogue Bans Panhandlers From Property

A Brooklyn synagogue is giving panhandlers the bum’s rush, banning them inside and outside its building.
“No loitering, soliciting, panhandling. Violators will be prosecuted,” reads a sign outside Congregation Veretzky on East Ninth Street, often referred to as Landau Synagogue in Midwood.
Panhandlers were shocked.
“This is the first synagogue that I know of to ever do that,” said one beggar, who claimed to rake in up to $100 a day in front of the Orthodox synagogue.
Another beggar said synagogue staff have kicked panhandlers’ chairs, misted some with a mystery aerosol spray and even threatened bodily harm.
“I was told if I come in and take food, they were going to cut my beitzim off,” he said, using a Hebrew euphemism for male genitals.
“It’s disgusting. They treat you like animals, like you’re beneath a human being,” he said. “They just want to keep the money for themselves!”
The beggars, who appear to be predominantly Jewish, said Jewish law sanctions panhandling in synagogues and at events, including weddings, where food is often left for the needy.
Other synagogues around the city at least allow begging in the lobby, or at appointed times in the day, another beggar noted.
“Here they’re going against Jewish law, treating poor people badly,” the beggar said.
NY Post reached out to Veretzky’s rabbi, Yitzchok Landau, and no comment was available.

Weekend Bridge and Street Closures – July 19-20

The Brooklyn Bridge will be closed to Manhattan-bound traffic from 12:01 am Saturday to 6 am Monday. Motorists should consider the Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, or Hugh L. Carey Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (MTA-tolled facility) as alternate routes. Brooklyn-bound traffic will access the Brooklyn Bridge normally. There will be no reversal or change to the normal Brooklyn-bound traffic patterns on the Brooklyn Bridge. Exit 2 on the northbound FDR Drive (Brooklyn Bridge/Manhattan Civic Center) will be closed during the same period.

Mulberry Street between Canal Street and Broome Street and Hester Street between Mott Street and Baxter Street will be closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 pm to 9 pm for the Little Italy Pedestrian Mall.

The following streets will be closed on Saturday:
* Amsterdam Avenue between 96th Street and 106th Street in Manhattan will be closed from noon to 5 pm for the Valley Restoration LDC Amsterdam Avenue Festival.
* 7th Avenue between 10th Street and 13th Street in Brooklyn will be closed from noon to 5 pm for the DOT Weekend Walks 7th Avenue Summer.
* West Burnside Avenue between Davidson Avenue and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx will be closed from noon to 5:30 pm for the DOT Weekend Walks Bronx Summer Walks on Burnside Avenue.
* Van Duzer Street between Beach Street and Wright Street on Staten Island will be closed from 1 pm to 6 pm for the DOT Weekend Walks Van Duzer Days.

The following streets in Manhattan will be closed on Sunday:
* Broadway between 47th Street and 57th Street will be closed from 11 am to 6 pm for the Motion Picture Club Movie Day Festival.
* Mott Street between Canal Street and Chatham Square will be closed from 11 am to 4 pm for the DOT Weekend Walks Explore Chinatown Mid-Summer Festival.

The times listed for closures for street fairs are for the actual times of the street fairs themselves. The streets may be closed longer to allow for set-up and breakdown. Street fair organizers are generally permitted to begin set-up at 8 am and breakdown must be completed by 7 pm.

GunStoppers Detective Faked Gun Paperwork to Get $1K Reward

nypdwbProsecutors say a New York City detective invented a tip about an illegal gun then forged paperwork to collect a $1,000 reward.

Detective John Malloy was arraigned Thursday in Manhattan. He pleaded not guilty and was released. His attorney didn’t immediately return a call.

Prosecutors say that in November 2012 Malloy created a fake anonymous tip for an already-recovered 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

They say he forged the signature of his supervisors and another detective to claim the reward money.

Internal affairs officers investigated the case. Malloy’s been charged with official misconduct as well as multiple counts of forgery and filing a false instrument.

Court papers show Malloy told investigators he was having health problems and was under a lot of stress when he signed his colleagues’ names. (more…)

Eight People – Including Five Teenagers – Charged With Firearms Trafficking at Lafayette Gardens Houses

Lafayette_Houses_Kalb_Classon_jehKings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson, together with New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, today announced that eight people have been variously charged with selling firearms to undercover officers over the past 10 months during an undercover operation at Lafayette Gardens in Clinton Hill.

District Attorney Thompson said, “The honest and hardworking people who live in Lafayette Gardens should not have to share their sidewalks with gun dealers, whom we will now hold accountable despite their young ages.”

Commissioner Bratton said, “This investigation highlights the efforts of the law enforcement community to continue to work together to remove illegal guns from our streets and dismantle young crews who engage in senseless violence.”

The District Attorney said that the top defendant in the case, Aneudy Cruz, 19, who is charged in connection with 25 of the alleged gun sales, is accused of enlisting, among others, 16 and 17 year-old boys and girls to deliver the handguns to customers, who were in fact the under covers. Cruz, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, was arraigned yesterday in Brooklyn Supreme Court and ordered held without bail.

The District Attorney said that the investigation, which began in September 2013, included undercover police officers making multiple purchases of weapons, ranging in price from $600 for a Charter Arms Undercover .38 caliber revolver to $800 for a Hi-Point C9 9mm handgun to $1,100 for a Walther PK .380 caliber handgun. The under covers were able to purchase 30 operable guns, often in broad daylight, in the vicinity of Lafayette Gardens, which is bordered by Lafayette, Classon, DeKalb and Franklin Avenues.

The defendants, who were picked up by police yesterday, are variously charged with first-degree criminal sale of a firearm, a B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison; second-degree criminal sale of a firearm, a C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison; third-degree criminal sale of a firearm, a D felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon a C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The investigation is continuing and additional arrests are expected.

The District Attorney noted that on June 26, 2014, eight defendants were charged in connection with a narcotics trafficking investigation at Lafayette Gardens conducted by his office and the New York City Police Department.


Assemblyman Cymbrowitz Gives Sanitation Boss Tour of Sheepshead Bay Community

doscym2Trash problems and summer heat are a bad mix, and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz says the city needs to do something about the problem now before Sheepshead Bay’s vermin population starts to soar.

In an effort to address quality of life issues throughout his district, the lawmaker took New York City Department of Sanitation Borough Superintendent Joe Lupo on a tour of Sheepshead Bay yesterday afternoon.

He invited Lupo to his district because many residents have reached out to him about trash throughout the neighborhood. In addition to overall filth in Sheepshead Bay, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz told the superintendent about the overflowing trash bins on Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue, the state of the Sheepshead Bay Road underpasses by the train station and along Shore Parkway, as well as trash along the Emmons Avenue median and Ocean Avenue.

Noting that the beauty of Sheepshead Bay attracts tens of thousands of residents and visitors each year, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz has partnered in recent years with the Department of Sanitation in an effort to encourage area merchants along Sheepshead Bay Road to sign up for Adopt-a-Basket, Sanitation’s volunteer program, which would help prevent public garbage cans from overflowing all over our streets.

In surveying the community, Assemblyman Cymbrowitz and Superintendent Lupo both agreed that immediate action needs to be taken. “While providing an aesthetically pleasing setting will encourage more people to enjoy the stretch of our waterfront, we need to be vigilant in ensuring that our community remains clean,” said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz.

He said he looks forward to continuing to partner with the Department of Sanitation to address the problem.



Monday July 21: Summer Bike Registration in Coney Island


Masbia Soup Kitchen Network Receives $5,000 MassMutual Grant

Masbia, a network of soup kitchen and food pantries that provide kosher meals to New Yorkers in need, has received $5,000 grant from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) as part of MassMutual’s national Community Service Award (CSA) program. Masbia is one of only sixteen organizations nationally to receive an award. MassMutual made the grant on behalf of the volunteer efforts of Menashe Silber, a MassMutual agent with MassMutual in Brooklyn.

“MassMutual’s Community Service Awards program aims to encourage and recognize those financial professionals who are active members of their community,” said Nick Fyntrilakis, Vice President of Community Responsibility, MassMutual. “Menashe’s volunteer work reflects MassMutual’s steadfast commitment to supporting organizations in the communities where our financial professionals live and work.”

Masbia works to not only feed the hungry, but to provide free, wholesome, and delicious meals for people in a restaurant-style environment, with volunteer waiters serving each person with respect and dignity. Alongside this everyday hot-meal program, Mabsia also provides pantry bags of much needed groceries every week to those with not enough at home.

“The support of MassMutual comes at a time when our program continues to grow,” stated Alexander Rapaport, Masbia’s Executive Director. “This year alone we anticipate providing nearly 1.5 million meals through our dinner service and weekly pantry program. We are honored to include MassMutual as part of our inaugural Masbia Community Partners Program and look forward to future partnership opportunities.”

Menashe has been with MassMutual Brooklyn for almost two years. He has been committed to Masbia since 2009 and has dedicated countless hours of time and talent to help the organization grow and flourish.

“I am very pleased that my dedication to Masbia has been recognized by MassMutual,” said Menashe. “This grant will provide much needed funding to continue supporting our community through providing hundreds of hot meals each day to hungry men, women and children throughout New York City.”

Vietnam-Era Navy Ship to Dock in Pier 5

Baylander-30349A Vietnam-era U.S. Navy vessel is soon to have a new home: a waterfront park in Brooklyn.

Organizers say the Baylander, which was first deployed in 1968, will be docked at Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park starting July 26.

The newly created, tree-lined park runs along the waterfront just south of the Brooklyn Bridge and has become a tourist attraction.

The ship was deployed for combat and then used for helicopter landing training.

It was later decommissioned from the Navy and is now privately owned.

It will be open for tours until Labor Day. The ship’s arrival is meant to highlight the construction of a new marina being built in the park that will hold other historic vessels.

The marina is slated to open in April 2015. (more…)